Philipp Fankhauser is a Swiss blues singer/guitarist who experienced Top Ten success in his homeland after two decades of recording activity. Born in 1964 in Thun, Switzerland, he began playing music during the late '70s after taking an unlikely interest in the blues as a teenager. His interest in the blues was compounded after he attended the 1981 Montreux Jazz Festival, where he witnessed firsthand a performance by Albert Collins. Other American blues legends he saw at the Montreux Jazz Festival during the early '80s included such luminaries as B.B. King, Koko Taylor, Willie Dixon, John Lee Hooker, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. In particular, a 1984 performance by Johnny "Clyde" Copeland left a lasting impression on Fankhauser; in fact, the two became acquainted and the Texas legend became a mentor to the Swiss novice, whose performance career was becoming a full-time occupation around this time period. In 1987 Fankhauser founded the Checkerboard Blues Band and began touring throughout Switzerland, playing dozens of shows a year. The Checkerboard Blues Band featured vocalist Margie Evans, and made their recording debut in 1989 with Blues for the Lady, which Fankhauser produced and on which he also sang. The Checkerboard Blues Band -- sans Evans -- returned in 1991 with their second album, With a Feeling; two other albums by the band followed -- Dedicated (1992) and the live album Thun-San Francisco (1994), the latter featuring Evans -- before Fankhauser recorded the solo album On Broadway (1995) in Memphis with producer/songwriter Dennis Walker. Beginning in 1994, Fankhauser resided in the United States, where he toured with his mentor, Copeland, until the Texan's death in 1997. In the meantime, a best-of album, His Kind of Blues (1996), was compiled as a gap-filler. Fankhauser subsequently returned to Switzerland in 2000 and resurrected the Checkerboard Blues Band for a new album, Welcome to the Real World (2000). Following a live album by the Philipp Fankhauser Blues Band, the trio showcase Live -- So Damn Cool (2003), Fankhauser signed a recording contract with Memphis International Records and proceeded to release Talk to Me (2004), a solo album recorded in Memphis with producer David Less. Fankhauser then signed with Funk House Blues, a Sony BMG subsidiary, and released his most commercially successful albums to date: Watching from the Safe Side (2006) and Love Man Riding (2008), the former of which was a Top 20 hit on the Swiss albums chart, the latter a Top Ten hit. ~ Jason Birchmeier
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